Prime Minister’s green slow down ‘puts jobs at risk’ warning

Monday September 25th 2023

Jenny Curtis MD Vattenfall Heat UK

Jenny Curtis Managing Director Vattenfall Heat UK.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson has warned that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to delay gas boiler replacements is putting ‘jobs at risk’.

Speaking as the boss of an energy firm at the centre of a low carbon project for thousands of new homes in the county hit out at the decision, Mr Thompson said it had created uncertainty for businesses.

And he warned slowing down the move towards green fuels would risk jobs in the future.

Mr Sunak last week announced a series of changes to the UK Government’s current climate targets including pushing back the deadline for replacing gas boilers from 2026 to 2035.

Jenny Curtis, Managing Director at Vattenfall Heat UK, which are leading a project to provide heating to homes in the new Shawfair development using heat from water in the mines network running under the whole county, hit out at the decision which she said took away the incentive for change.

She said: “In the UK, one third of greenhouse gas emissions come from heating homes and buildings. Delaying the phase-out of gas boilers risks removing the incentive for building owners to switch to lower-carbon alternatives.

“The UK cannot afford to stall the deployment of low carbon heating by sending mixed messages about the future of fossil fuels.

“Companies will stop investing and the establishment of the supply chain and skills base that we so desperately need will fail to happen.”

Vattenfall has joined forces with Midlothian Council to create Midlothian Energy Limited, which will provide heating initially for the new Shawfair development which will have around 3,000 homes, and could extend to south Edinburgh and East Lothian..

The initial phase of the network will supply the homes, education and retail properties at Shawfair Town and will be powered by waste heat from FCC Environment’s Millerhill Recycling and Energy Recovery Centre which will burn tonnes of waste which would otherwise go to landfill to create energy.

As the project expands heat from the mines will also be harnessed to supply more customers including existing homes.

The project showcases the ability to use the mines, once at the heart of creating fossil fuels, as a solution for the future.

Owen Thompson, Midlothian MP, believes the success of Shawfair will place the county at the centre of a new Scottish industrial revolution as the country taps into the potential energy from mine networks.

He said: “One of the great things about trialling this in Midlothian is that this county and others like it fuelled the industrial revolution with coal, now it is time to get something back for the blood, sweat and tears that went into that in the past.

“Midlothian has the chance to become the Scottish hub for geothermal energy, there is no reason why we cannot have it here.”

But he said he was concerned by the Prime Minister’s apparent step back last week.

“Businesses look to government to give a steer of the direction to go in and when you have a target and then it changes this gives businesses no certainty whatsoever.

“There was a direction we were going in and to slow it down puts jobs at risk.”

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